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By Gosh, Southwest Airlines Was At Oshkosh

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On the face of it, a small upper Midwestern town on the shores of Lake Winnebago seems like an unusual place to host aviation enthusiasts from all over the world, but Oshkosh, Wisconsin has been hosting the EAA’s annual Air Venture since 1969.  (The event actually began in Milwaukee in 1953.)  And, Oshkosh is the perfect venue for the event, with lots of room, friendly folks, and beautiful summer weather—even the rain on Friday felt nice to those of us from a 100-degree North Texas.

If you mix a state fair with a trade show, symposium, air show, you get Air Venture, and I know why some folks spend up to a whole week there because you simply can’t see or attend everything.  Southwest Airlines brought our special Air Venture 2010 aircraft to the show on July 31. 

Those of us on the advance team were sweating out the rain all night, but it stopped about 5:30 am that morning.  It was still cloudy in the distance when N948WN, our glossy month-old 737-700, carrying 100 volunteers and special guests broke out of the gloom and touched down on Runway 18 in front of a surprisingly large early crowd at 8:00am.  Because I’ve been part of the great team who has been working on this project since January, it was an emotional moment as the Boeing was pulled into the center piece of the show, Aero Shell Square. 

I couldn’t help imagine what many of my Fellow Employees were thinking at they looked out their windows, having left Chicago Midway a few minutes earlier.  They had been lifted from the uniformity of a modern airport to an aviation wonderland where our aircraft would share the ramp with some of the most significant aircraft in history.  Surrounding our modern Boeing was a Boeing from a much earlier age, the magnificent B-17.  Adjacent to the B-17, was one of the ultimate piston-powered airliners, the immaculately restored Eastern Airlines Douglas DC-7B.  Continuing around our 737 was the unique tilt-wing Bell V-22A Osprey, a C-130 Hercules, and immediately in front of us, a massive C-5 transport.  Not far away was one of the few remaining DC-2s in the world.

Much more than all of the amazing hardware on display, the big “take away” for me from our participation is the interaction we had with all the people attending the show.  Not long after we deplaned, a long line began to build of folks waiting to tour our aircraft.  For the next seven hours, that line never diminished.  We had set up a tent near the rear of the aircraft where folks exited the aircraft, and we talked to people from Europe and Australia.  Many were aviation enthusiasts like many of us, but others were families from the local area.  I think we were surprised but very proud that so many folks wanted to see our aircraft and to talk with our Pilot volunteers.

Meanwhile, the passengers from our ferry flight fanned across the show.   Other aircraft were open for tours, and two that I made a point of going inside were the Eastern DC-7B and the TWA DC-2.  If your aviation geekiness factor is high enough, you will know that the DC-2 was the forerunner of the DC-3 masterpiece.  The “two” is a third smaller, and the DC-3 was the first example of “stretching” an airliner.

The DC-7 series had the range to fly nonstop from coast to coast, and the DC-7B was a refinement of the basic “Seven” with greater range.  The final DC-7 was the DC-7C or the “Seven Seas” with longer wings, a taller tail, and transatlantic range.  The DC-7’s production life was cut short by the introduction of the early jets, and they were quickly pulled from service, some with only a couple of years’ service.

The military also had a large representation, and here we see Paul Thompson on the flight deck of the C-5 that was parked in front of our aircraft.

Other interesting aircraft on display were the Ford Tri-motor—this example was being displayed by one of the show’s sponsors, Ford Motor Company.

And we had this, the only flying example of the Sikorsky S-38.  The S-38 was a close relative to Pan American’s pioneering S-40s and S-42s.

Not only are the aircraft on display, many of them participated in the daily air show, which is different each day.  This is the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey.

After the show ended on Saturday, we all loaded up into N948WN for the short flight back to Chicago Midway.  Even then, probably a thousand folks had lined the fences along the runway to watch our departure.  It was an amazing event for all of us who attended, and we hope we can return next year.

26 Comments
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Great coverage, Brian--as always. I felt like I was there with you. Sounds like a fantastic time and I'm sure you and your Team secured many new fans for our beloved SWA (plus, I suspect, you also enhanced our positive reputation with our "aleady-fans"). Great pictures too :-)! xoxo, Colleen Barrett
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Great to see my favorite airline in Oshkosh. The pictures are awesome. Thanks, Ken Orlando, FL
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Hi Brian and Crew ! We saw you there !!! My 8 year old son was so excited since he has a Southwest 737 on his Flight Simulator ! I was so thrilled to read your article today... I was checking out the webpage, and of course, anytime I see AirVenture, I look ! Great article and excellent pictures ! We hope you enjoyed your time at Osh ! Next year, you will have to seek out my Dad in the Breezy. He was just inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame and the great folks at EAA AirVenture presented him with a wonderful plaque at the Brown Arch this last Osh. I am sure he'd be happy to give you a ride ! Google him: Arnie Breezy Airventure http://www.eaa.org/news/2010/2010-05-13_zimmerman.asp HAPPY FLYING ! Always ~ Aymee
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That annual event proves there is still a mystery of flight while people look at all the beautiful flying machines. What a trip "up and down" history with old models and experimental ... plus samples from both the civilian and military sectors. I'm sure Southwest represented themselves smartly. What an honor and thrill to not only be there, but be a working "exhibit" of the event. Great story ... great pictures ... great airline!
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Southwest has always been our favorite airline. In fact, we are flying you today from PHX to CMH and looking forward to it. Our daughter, a Civil Air Patrol captain and a senior Commercial Pilot student from Kansas State University was there working at Oshkosh! What a thrill for her to see her favorite airline along with so many other amazing aircraft. We appreciate Southwest - you do it all the way it should be done!
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Glad you enjoyed the AirVenture. I also attended this unbelievable event. Even as a non-aviator, I had a fantastic time. The air museum, vendors, forums and of course the planes were wonderful. There is definately something for everyone. This year there was a Saturday night airshow and fireworks. Try to catch it next year. It was spectacular.
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WOW! Thanks for the great report! My Dad was a lead B-17 bombardier on D-day. Having always wanted to go to Oshkosh EAA, you are making me commit to next year as "The Year!" Of course, you brought tears when you told of parking next to the Flying Fortress! Hope to see you there next year!
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I am a recent SWA convert, gladly driving to Milwaukee to take advantage of your flights and great deals. So when I get your weekly emails, I usually scroll thru to see what's going on. How NICE of you to spotlight your visit to my town, Oshkosh, WI, for the EAA Air Venture this year! Hope you had a wonderful time there - it's a fantastic venue. Please come again!
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It's refreshing to see positive content on the Internet. Thanks for the great photos and commentary! You've given me a great idea for a vaction next year! And keep up the great job, SWA--love to fly with you!
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Just caught your article and great pictures from Oshkosh. Nice job! I will be heading out to Southern Cal later in the year and booked a flight to Ontario Ca. I informed my friend to what dates and times I would be arriving and departing. Forgot to mention what airline. I got an e mail back from him stating "I suppose you will be flying Southwest Air"? My reply was "Is there any other airline"? You guys are the best! Keep up the great work!
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Brian, I've always loved manned flight, and I had the great luck to work as an engineer on the Space Shuttle program in its early days. One of the NASA guys used to go to Oshkosh every year, but his description of the event doesn't hold a candle to yours. I so wish I could have been on that LUV flight to Oshkosh with the rest of you! What a memorable day for everyone!!
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Soooo good to see SWA at the AirVenture this year! Many thanks for the wonderful photo of that "ultimate tail-dragger", the DC3....I have many memories of this magnificent li'l bird gobbling up the air as it gained alititude in the Andes Mountains of Venezuela in the 1940's, circling up, up, up and finally over the peaks. Those who didn't have the opportunity of flying that jewel of a plane missed out on something irreplaceable in aviation.
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Re: The DC-2 on display at Air Venture. Have you ever heard of the famous DC 2&1/2? Check it out: http://www.cnac.org/aircraft02.htm spaceace
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Great photos, and captions. Glad we added SWA colors to the show. Our beautiful new Boeing brightened the sky and faces of our aeronautical guests. Any room for non-revs? or SWA Retirees? Be glad to serve next year at Oshkosh, by gosh. All the best, keep your wings level and your airspeed up, DG
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While I'm new to Southwest and all the great things you have to offer, I am an old fan of the Oshkosh EAA, as my dad used to fly us in to show his Gull-Wing Stinson. As an adult I've only had a few opportunities to go, and of course was awed each time! I want to thank you so much for the great pictures, descriptions and other information! I felt almost like I was actually there!
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Hi everyone, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Aymee, thanks for sharing the info about your dad. Hopefully next year (I am hoping for next year), we will have more time to go exploring. Sandy, you have a beautiful home town, and thanks for flying from Milwaukee with us. Diana T. The DC-3 is one of my favorite aircraft, and in 1954 my first airplane flight was on a three. (Incidentally, the pic above is of the DC-3's forerunner, the DC-2.) Spaceace, I had heard of the DC-2 1/2. There was also a DC-1, which met its end during the Spanish Civil War flying for the Loyalists. And to all of you thanks for flying Southwest.
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I'm so glad I read this article - never heard of AirVenture and now I want to attend! (I'm in San Jose, CA - maybe I'll win the contest) Thanks for taking us along with the history tidbits, photos & your personal memories. I had to fly another airline when I went to Hawaii - otherwise, I luv SWA - even the honey-roasted peanuts! And, yes, I have been a Rapid Rewards member for a long time.
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How lovely to see that Colleen was the first to post a comment on your story. Colleen - I hope you are enjoying your retirement - I miss reading your letters in Spirit.
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Great to see SWA active at Airventure 2010. Just makes sense, doesn't it? Measuring my my first time there in dozens of years ago now, it never gets old. Hope that SWA will continue to be an active participant (or sponsor) in being there and in helping us get there! Great story and pix.
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Hi Brian ! Anytime you are in Chicago-land and have time for a flight in nice weather, let me know ! :) Happy Skies to you ! ~Aymee
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Hi Aymee, thanks for the invite! Brian
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I missed Oshkosh this year (I hope I'll be able to make it there next year), but saw the DC-7B at the Thunder over Michigan air show. I remember seeing the former Save-A-Connie's (now Airline History Museum) Lockheed Super Constellation several times at Oshkosh. According to the Airline History Museum's web site, their Super Connie is being refurbished. Hopefully before long, we will see the DC-7B and the Super Constellation parked together. It would be even better if yet another beautiful aircraft powered by the Wright 3350 engine, Commemorative Air Force's B-29 (Fifi), can join the two 3350-powered airliners to make one heck of a beautiful trio!
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I took a flight from Denver to Sioux City on Sept.24. Having been recently widowed, I was lost and going thru the Denver AP is no picnic. They are not nice but I do realize their position. Your flight attendant (I never got his name) just made my day! He was so nice and so funny. His humor was the highlight of the flight. It made me wish I was flying farther! Thanks to you for having such a good team!! I will recommend you to everyone I know.